Young Hackney heroes in Indian drowning rescue

The boat which sunk

The boat which sunk - Credit: Archant

A pair of university students have been hailed as heroes, after they helped save people from drowning when a ferry sunk in India – in a tragedy which claimed 11 lives.

Massimo (left), and Micha

Massimo (left), and Micha - Credit: Archant

With no thought for their own safety, former Mossbourne pupils Massimo Monks and Micha Horgan, both 20, dived into the water at Fort Kochi port in Kerala, when they saw the boat transporting around 40 passengers – which had been struck by a fishing boat – was sinking.

The men, who are travelling around India during their six-week summer break, swam life jackets to the drowning people, helping keep them afloat until fishing boats could reach them, and pulled others from the water.

Massimo, a second year medical student at Oxford University from Powell Road, Lower Clapton, said: “At the start we didn’t think it would be too much of a problem, the boat was only about 20m from the shore and there were 100 people around.

“But we quickly realised no one was jumping in, I think the main reason was a lot of the Indian people couldn’t swim, or at least not well enough to help.

“There was a guy that was shouting: ‘Anyone that can swim, help, there are women and children’. That was pretty much when we took off our tops and jumped in,” he continued.

“A lot of people were holding onto very little, some of the people were sinking below and were having to take it in turns to drown a little bit.”

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Micha, from Fletching Road, who studies creative writing at East Anglia University, added: “It was very distressing, there was a lot of screaming, a lot of crying, and we saw a couple of unconscious children being pulled out of the water limp in their parents arms being rushed off to the nearest hospital.

“There was a film of petrol on the water, so it meant that people going under were swallowing mouthfuls of petrol water and coughing and spluttering, it didn’t make it any easier for people that couldn’t swim.

“The current was quite strong which meant they didn’t find all the bodies.

there are a couple of bodies still missing, and people were getting pulled towards the boat propellers which was quite scary.

“We definitely made a difference, it would have been nice to have realised what was going on a little bit sooner, it was one of those things that half a minute counts, even a couple more minutes in the water would have made a difference of a couple of lives.”

Several local newspapers wrote about the “foreigners who had saved the victims”.

“It was unnecessary acknowledgement, but it was nice of them and to know that it hadn’t gone unnoticed.”